I Hate The MMORPG End Game
Maybe hate is a bit too strong a word but ironically enough, for someone who’s been an avid (very avid) MMOer since 1999, I’ve come to realise lately just how much I dislike the end game of the traditional MMORPG. So much so in fact that in my recent return to WoW in the past month I’ve taken to deleting my high level characters and making new alts instead.
It’s not just that I find the low level game in WoW more fun than the high level, I think I actually feel that way about pretty much every MMO. If I look back at my history of playing, ever since the original Everquest, I’ve always preferred the journey of leveling up, or even low level PvP, to that of the end game. In EQ2, for example, all I pretty much did was re-roll alts with my guild so we could have fun with the low level world PvP. Unfortunately though it seems also like a lot of games are becoming more top heavy now by making the leveling process faster than ever before and creating more and more grind locks at max level to keep folk from leaving when they hit the cap. I’m not trying to pick on it but obviously WoW is the main offender in this area.
But I’m not here to rant about WoW or the way it’s been designed (I still happen to enjoy it on a casual basis) but rather I guess I’m stating my preference and the reasons why. To me, the MMO end game is a deeply flawed beast, one that was tacked on by happenchance and has now evolved into almost a pure retention mechanic. I think we can all agree that raiding, as fun as it may be for some people, is hugely disjointed from the first several dozen of hours of gaming in a character’s life (how exactly does anything you do when you level up prepare you for a 20 or 30 person raid?) and also wreaks havoc with the holy trinity concept (only one tank required for an entire raid party?). Likewise, from a purely personal opinion, I’ve never enjoyed raiding because it seems to bring out the worst in people and reinforce some kind of rigid, militant, min/maxing style of gameplay. Committing several nights a week and several hours per session to follow exact strategies and a specific character build all in an attempt to maybe get a new piece of gear isn’t my cup of tea. I have complete and total respect for raiders but it’s too much like a day job to appeal to the likes of me.
The endless grinding involved at the end game of a lot of MMOs also kinda gets me down. Yeah, I know there probably isn’t much mechanical difference between grinding for items at level 85 in WoW as there is grinding quests or dungeons to level up but I guess the fundamental psychology of it what is alters my perception. Somehow leveling up makes me feel like I’m an adventurer on a journey yet suddenly finding all of my level 85 gear redundant because a new Tier of items has been released with slightly more glowly shoulder pads is something I find kinda depressing.
Ironically though, as much as I’m picking on WoW here in my examples, I actually think it’s low level gameplay is quite brilliant. The races and classes are all very well defined and each have a strong identity, there’s huge amount of variety in location and activity and there’s a constant stream of little carrots to keep you interested. Compared to a game like RIFT, which only offers two location routes to level up in and is hence quite repetitive, WoW actually offers a a lot of things to keep low level gamers interested and entertained, over and over again. I’ve got no problem hitting the level cap and then just re-rolling to enjoy the experience all over again.
Anyway, not really sure this article has a point but if it did I guess it would be that I’d like to see more ‘traditional’ style MMOs focus more on the leveling process as an important, if not the most important, aspect of gameplay. It seems to be something that we’re trying to skip over quicker and quicker these days. Maybe it would even be nice to see a game in which you hit the level cap, run a few quests or dungeon groups and then ultimately complete the game and its storyline, before being asked to re-roll. They could base it on Buddhism.